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Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

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202                          UFE OF
vations, and the universalising of the natural science
of that age. It -was, as Humboldt expresses himself,
the age of encyclopedic learning; a connexion of the
knowledge of heaven and earth—where astronomical
and geographical progress was made—where the move-
ments of the planets were more accurately ascertained,
hut where, at the same time, all knowledge of the
absolute size, form, mass., and physical constitution of
the world remained on its old footing.
In the Roman world dominion, Humboldt sees the
first signs of an union of the three above-named
divisions of the Mediterranean into one confederation,
connected with other great continents; he sufficiently
appreciates the influence of a great confederation on
natural science; he sees the different previously in-
dividually progressing streams of civilization united
here; Rome had become the centre of this great ixew
circle. Geology was advanced by tillage; Strabo and
Ptolemaus rose up as the supporters of geographico-
physical and mathematical science; mathematical
optics and chemical science commenced; and Pliny
made his first attempt at a physical geography.
And now Christianity appeared. In it, Humboldt
perceives the origin of the gradually progressing
feeling of the unity of the human race—the great
fountain of benevolence, of the humanising of nations
in their morals and manners. He has thus recognised
four great eras in the progress of knowledge in the
universe. 1, The attempts to advance from the shores
of the Mediterranean eastward towards Pontus and
Phasis; southward, to Ophir, and tropical auriferous
countries; and westward, towards the pillars of Her-
cules, in the ocean. 2. The Macedonian campaign
under Alexander. 3, Period of the Lagides; and
4. Roman, dominion: but, he acknowledges besides,
the immense influence of the Arabian invasion, which
introduced a foreign element into European civilization,
aaid of the discoveries of the Portuguese and Spaniards
in the six or seven centuries subsequently occurring.
Both these events considerably advanced and extended